08/09/2013 05:57 pm ET

Women Who Abuse Alcohol Seek Treatment Sooner Than Men, Study Finds


Women who abuse alcohol tend to seek treatment sooner than their male counterparts, according to a small new study.

Published online ahead of print in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Florida found that women tend to seek treatment for their substance abuse four to five years sooner than men do.

"Although the study does not specifically address why this is the case, it is important for primary physicians and first line health care workers to know that it takes, on average, approximately 10 years to progress from self-reported problems with alcohol to treatment for women, and approximately 15 years to progress from self reported problems with alcohol to treatment for men," study researcher Rosemary Fama, senior research scientist and senior research neuropsychologist at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Researchers noted that they started out wanting to study whether or not the "telescoping" effect was real for women -- that is, whether women progress faster through different stages of alcoholism than men.

For the study, they recruited 274 men and 257 women who were already in substance abuse treatment centers. Researchers asked them questions about their drinking history, including family history or spousal history of drinking, when the first time they had alcohol was, when the first time they got drunk was, and how long it took them to seek out treatment.

"Certain aspects of our findings confirm 'telescoping' in women, but importantly, others do not," Ben Lewis, a postdoctorate associate in psychiatry at the University of Florida, said in the statement. "For example, the finding that men and women both transitioned from early drinking events to problems with alcohol in the same average time would not support the concept of telescoping. In contrast, and more consistent with telescoping, women moved from experiencing drinking problems to treatment an average of four years earlier."

Past research has suggested gender differences in alcoholism, too. A study published last year in the same journal showed that alcohol dependence may be twice as deadly for women than men, HuffPost Women reported. That study was based on 14 years of data of more than 4,000 people.

According to government dietary guidelines, moderate alcohol consumption is considered one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Signs of alcohol abuse include drinking while driving, continuing to drink in the midst of alcohol-caused relationship problems, having legal problems because of alcohol and having failures to complete responsibilities because of alcohol. Signs of alcoholism, on the other hand, include continuing to drink alcohol despite the problems it causes in a person's life, being unable to stop drinking, and craving alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.